Two MPs have expressed serious concern over the proposed Rampion 2 wind farm expansion off the West Sussex coast.
The project has been put forward by Germany energy group RWE and could see 325-metre-high turbines – the same height as the Eiffel Tower and taller than the highest peak of the South Downs – installed.
The expansion of the existing wind farm would involve the construction of a 22-mile onshore cable corridor, up to 50 metres wide, running through Climping beach and cutting diagonally through a large swathe of the South Downs National Park to a new sub-station at Bolney.
A nine-week public consultation on proposals for the expansion of the Rampion offshore wind farm is currently underway.
Nick Gibb, Member of Parliament for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, said: “I support the Government’s aim for the UK to be a world leader in renewable energy and the Government’s ambitious programme to tackle climate change, but this stretch of the West Sussex coastline is an inappropriate location for such a large wind farm.
“The English Channel is too narrow to enable the turbines to be positioned far enough out to sea to be acceptable. This proposal does not, therefore, comply with the Government’s recommendations for offshore wind farms of this size.
“The visual impact of the turbines on our outstanding seascape would be hugely damaging, particularly to tourism, which is an important employer in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. There are far better alternatives for wind farm expansion, for example at Dogger Bank in the North Sea.”
Andrew Griffith, MP for Arundel and South Downs, shared a similar view. He said: “Offshore wind power is already playing a valuable role in our journey to Net Zero.
“However, with plenty of capacity available at sites with more reliable wind in the North Sea, I am unconvinced that West Sussex is the best place for such a large wind farm expansion.
“In particular, I share the concerns of local residents that creating a second onshore cable corridor is unnecessarily disruptive, cutting across ancient-woodland and prime farmland. The South Downs National Park rightly has the highest degree of protection in law and has been bisected by cables once already.”
A spokesperson for the developers said that only one wind farm exists off the UK’s south coast – Rampion – and only one wind farm is being proposed off the south coast – Rampion 2.
“Yet, the south of England, particularly the southeast, is the most densely populated region in the UK and therefore has a high energy demand,” they added.
“Should Rampion 2 achieve consent, construction could start around 2025/26 with the wind farm fully operational before the end of the decade, contributing the south coast’s contribution to meeting Government targets to quadruple offshore wind in the UK by 2030.”
In a joint statement, the MPs said that, in 2016, the UK Government’s Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment recommended that wind farms should be at least 25 miles from a National Park.
They added: “The proposed expansion, however, would be only 10 and a half miles from the South Downs National Park boundary. The wind farm would be no further from the shore than the existing turbines at a minimum of 8 miles.
“Badly planned wind farms have the potential to cause unnecessary onshore and offshore harm and damage the local economies of seaside towns along the South coast.”
Rampion explained that, due to the ‘east-west linear nature of the South Downs’, there is ‘no way of avoiding’ the national park with the cable route.
The spokesperson added: “However, the construction impact is temporary as is evidenced from the successful reinstatement of Rampion’s cable route, so the land makes a full recovery and the project team work with landowners and farmers to agree reinstatement strategies for their land.
“The cable route is also routed to avoid or mitigate impacts on environmental designations, such as micrositing around areas of ancient woodland.”
Rampion said that an ‘Area of Search’, eight miles off the Sussex coast, has been assessed by renewable energy producer RWE for a maximum of up to 116 turbines – the same number as the existing Rampion Wind Farm but using the latest turbine technology.
This means that the Rampion 2 Wind Farm could create up to three times the amount of power.
The spokesperson continued: “The case for sustainable energy is clear: the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that the increase in global temperature needs to be kept below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2030 to avoid catastrophic and irreversible impacts of climate change. The UK Government has formally declared a Climate Emergency and has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 68 per cent compared to 1990 levels, by the end of this decade.
“To help meet this overarching target, the Government has set a target to quadruple offshore wind capacity by 2030.”
Rampion added that wind energy is the ‘most advanced’ renewable energy technology, with offshore wind benefiting from ‘higher and more consistent’ wind speeds, and the cost having halved in the last two to three years.
A nine-week formal public consultation on draft proposals runs until September 16 at Rampion2.com and is an opportunity for people to have their say.
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